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NY Giants Safeties Situation

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Here is a reporter's take on the Giants mini camp happenings in the D backfield:

 

Mini-Camp Report for Friday, June 3

Williams' return sets up fierce battle for safety spot; Giants conclude camp.

By Michael Eisen, Giants.com

 

June 3, 2005

 

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.– In 2003, Shaun Williams tore the lateral meniscus in his right knee, underwent surgery, missed the last six games of the season and endured an arduous rehabilitation before returning to action as the Giants’ starting strong safety.

 

“I really don’t know (what will happen). I just try to practice and prepare as hard as I can. We’ll see what happens. Gibril is very talented. I’m just going out there and see where I fit in. We’re both playing strong safety and he’s the starter right now.”

- S Shaun Williams

In 2004, Williams tore the lateral meniscus in his left knee, underwent surgery, missed the last 14 games of the season and endured an arduous rehabilitation before returning to action as … well, that has yet to be decided.

 

When Williams went down last year, rookie Gibril Wilson stepped in and played superbly, intercepting three passes, recording three sacks and earning NFL Rookie of the Month honors for October. Wilson suffered a burner at Arizona on Nov. 14 and like Williams, never returned to the field. He missed the final seven games of the season.

 

During the five practices in the full-squad mini-camp that concluded today, Williams and Wilson split time at strong safety. But Wilson took most of the snaps with the first team, another development in an offseason of uncertainty for Williams, the Giants’ first-round draft choice in 1998. On March 31, Williams agreed to a restructured contract. Had he not, he would have lost his spot on the roster.

 

“Before they restructured my deal I didn’t think I was going to be here,” Williams said. “But they decided to keep me around.”

 

So now what happens? Given that he is entering his eighth season, is coming off two knee surgeries and is competing with a talented youngster, Williams still has plenty to prove.

 

“I really don’t know (what will happen),” Williams said. “I just try to practice and prepare as hard as I can. We’ll see what happens. Gibril is very talented. I’m just going out there and see where I fit in. We’re both playing strong safety and he’s the starter right now.

 

“I’m not a hundred percent, but I have no pain or swelling. I ice myself down after practice. I feel great and I’m planning to get back to a hundred percent. I’m probably 80 percent right now. I’m definitely going to get there; by the time I get to training camp, I think I’ll be a hundred percent. There are times I feel close to a hundred percent now. My legs aren’t as strong as they used to be.”

 

Wilson is also reluctant to predict what will happen. With only eight games of NFL experience – seven as a starter – he is still trying to establish himself with the Giants and in the league.

 

“Shaun has always been a great help to me,” Wilson said. “And he continues to help me out. I have to play my game and whatever the coach decides to do, that’s what we have to do.”

Tom Coughlin is a long way from deciding who will start or how roles will be defined. The Giants have two weeks of organized team activities before breaking for their pre-training camp vacation. The real skirmish for jobs will begin in Albany late next month.

 

“I hope they will be ready to go full-speed,” Coughlin said. “They are both restricted right now, but that is okay for right now as long as there is no contact. But they are gaining in strength and confidence, I think, each time they work.”

 

One of the most interested observers of the strong safety situation is free safety Brent Alexander. Last year, Alexander was one of just three defensive players to start all 16 games (the others were middle linebacker Kevin Lewis and left cornerback Will Allen). At different times, Alexander played with Williams and Wilson, as well as Omar Stoutmire, Terry Cousin and Curry Burns. When Cousin, who is really a cornerback, became a starting safety with seven games remaining in the season, Alexander switched from free to strong safety.

 

Alexander has no favorite between Williams and Wilson. The 12-year veteran wants to see the best players on the field and would like some stability in the back of the secondary.

 

“I really can’t care who starts over there,” Alexander said. “You look at things as they are. Shaun has played a good many years now and he still has years to go. Gibril is an up-and-coming guy and when he’s going to hit that peak, we don’t know. It could be this year or it could be next year. We know it’s coming, because we’ve seen the sparks he left out on the field last year. He has all the ability to be a successful player. You don’t know how it’s going to work out. It’s a great situation for Gibril to continue to learn behind Shaun, who has the experience. It might be time where Gibril can build off what he started last year. It’s really hard to say. I have to stay healthy, too, or those two guys can be on the field at the same time. We don’t know what’s going to happen. We know we have a few safeties in here, but we don’t know the overall situation.”

 

Williams, of course, is accustomed to playing. After contributing as a reserve his first two seasons, he stepped into the lineup in 2000 and started 58 consecutive games before he was hurt at Philadelphia on Nov. 16, 2003. He was enjoying his return to the lineup when he fell on his left knee near the end of practice last Sept. 24. Williams underwent the same surgery he had the previous year on his other knee. He has been an every-day participant in the team’s offseason conditioning program.

 

“In my mind I don’t feel I’ve lost a step; I feel like I’ve gained a step even though I’m coming off of two knee surgeries,” Willliams said. “That’s what I’ve been working hard to do. I didn’t come back to be the same or be less than I was.”

 

Williams is doing everything he can to impress the coaches.

 

“I want them to want me on the field,” he said.

 

So does Wilson, who never expected to miss the remainder of the season when he suffered his injury in the season’s ninth game.

 

“Initially, I didn’t think I was hurt that bad,” he said. “But it was definitely a real significant injury, because I basically couldn’t use my deltoid (muscle). I couldn’t lift my arm up.

 

“It was devastating to me, because I was just starting to pick up the defense and starting to get comfortable. Unfortunately, I got injured. I can’t help that. I just have to get stronger.”

 

Wilson said he didn’t feel he was all the way back until a month ago, when he could do everything required of him in the weight room. He now weighs 205 pounds, or 10 pounds more then he weighed last year.

 

“Hopefully that will let me take more of an impact,” he said. “Right now I think I’m a hundred percent and I’m just trying to get back to where I was. One of my big goals is to play all 16 games and, hopefully, the playoffs.”

 

It’s a goal shared by Williams, which should make for an interesting training camp.

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I haven't heard any rumblings about Allen being moved at all. Both safety positions are up for grabs in a three way competition between Wilson, Williams and Alexander.

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